President Trump Acts to Free Up Water for Western Farmers

Published December 14, 2018

President Donald Trump signed a memorandum slashing federal environmental regulations which limit and slow the delivery of water and hydroelectric power in the Western states, including California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state.

In California, Trump’s October order will affect the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, or California Delta, an expansive inland river delta and estuary in Northern California, which supplies much of the state’s water supply. President Trump says the state has been mismanaging the Delta, harming farmers and ranchers with too many rules and regulations.

Reducing Regulations

Trump says his order will deliver more water to Valley farmers, who have suffered for years under strict federal and state environmental restrictions which have required increasing amounts of water to be diverted or left in streams and rivers for salmon, Delta smelt and other endangered species, leaving their crops wither and die for lack of water.

“What’s happened there is disgraceful. They’ve taken it away,” Trump told the Sacramento Bee. “There’s so much water, they don’t know what to do with it, they send it out to sea…. They don’t let the water come down into the Valley and into the areas where they need the water.”

Trump’s action will provide greater certainty to the region’s water users, said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, in a statement praising Trump’s action.

“For many years, westerners have expressed their need for certainty and access to water and affordable, renewable hydropower,” Bishop said. “This action will increase the availability to innovative technology, improve access to water, reduce regulatory burden, and provide needed certainty from completed biological opinions.”

Current Management Failing

The Sacramento Bee reports Deputy Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt said current policies have not been working for species or farmers.

“For the last decade people have done a lot of talking and a lot of examination (of the Delta) and the reality is on-the-ground results for people and species have not dramatically improved,” Bernhardt said. “[The administration is acting] in a way that’s protective to species and responsible to people.”

Trump’s action will improve the fortunes farmers and ranchers, says Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance.

“This action is an important and common-sense move that will benefit Western farmers and ranchers,” Keppen told the Bee.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.